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Indian Basket making

Baskets made by Indians of the Southwest tell a great deal about their way of life. They made baskets out of many different materials, in many shapes, and for many uses. There were enormous baskets for storing nuts and grain, large burden baskets which were slung on their backs to carry heavy loads, flat baskets for serving food, a variety of bowl shapes to hold corn, pollen or beads, deep basket bowls to cook food, and  bottle-shaped baskets to hold small seeds or, with a coating of pitch, to carry water. 

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A way of life

They were made with a  variety of techniques and decorated with designs and colors that transformed many of them into decorative works of art Baskets have always been hand crafted, without the use of any mechanical contrivance.  Since early times, a knife or other cutting implement and a simple awl were all that was needed to make most kinds of baskets, but the most important tools have always been the weavers hands, used along with their teeth and fingernails.

The essential ingredients in basketry continue to be the ingenuity and manual skills of the weavers. Making baskets is a time-consuming and arduous task. The survival of the craft through thousands of years is surely an indication of the usefulness of baskets and the satisfactions they provide both their makers and users.

Today in the Southwest, some tribes still make small quantities of baskets while others make almost none. In recent years modern manufactured goods have supplanted baskets in daily use, but some native people continue to make baskets for ritual and ceremonial purposes, and to sell to the tourist trade. Knowledge and training are required to make good baskets. Besides a thorough grounding in technique, weavers must have a broad understanding of native plant materials, where they can be procured, and how to prepare them for weaving.